Typical of cinematic storytelling, the frequent change of perspective
seems to be swapping between subjective
(limited by a character’s point of view) and omniscient
perspective. Sometimes the viewer sees things from the camera’s point of view, such as how characters behave in a certain place and
at a certain time, what they say and how they act. This is known as the "authorial" or “omniscient” camera
) and gives the viewer the impression that an authorial, omniscient narrator is looking at and showing them the action. On the other hand, we are also often given the impression that we are seeing things from the point of view of a character themselves. The shot that conveys the subjective viewpoint of a film character is thus called a "subjective shot"
or "point of view shot"
(or “POV” for short). A POV camera shot is often preceded by a shot of the character who looks at something that is out of the picture (a "gaze shot
"). After a cut usually the POV camera then follows their gaze. The editing process, which then maintains the logic of the gaze and its direction, is called the “viewing axis connection”
A slight digression:
If you take a closer look, however, this apparently simple distinction between subjective and
authoritative narration cannot be maintained.
The internal perspective must be distinguished from the external, purely physical point of view, which only conveys the
visual perceptions of a film character – a setting as if seen through their eyes. An internal perspective would include
a visualization of the thoughts and feelings of the character. A shot that attempts to do this is sometimes called a mindscreen
. We could call this a character’s interior world – a
subjective setting or scene that aims to show the viewer what a character is thinking or dreaming of. The latter is
often referred to as a “dream sequence” or “dream scene”. The advantage of a this “inner world” point of view is that it
allows the viewer to take in the “inner view” of the protagonist, which at the time obviously does not correspond to
what they actually see (“POV shot”).
Real and imaginary elements, the objective and the subjective, can merge in one setting. For example, a figure can be
shown from the outside in a film (we see the character on the screen), which at first glance gives the impression that
the story is being told authorially (objectivity). However, the setting has been designed by the director (see
Mise-en-Scène) in such a way that it also reflects the character's inner world of feelings and thoughts (subjectivity).
A shot that expresses mental or emotional subjectivity and is not a POV shot can be referred to as a “perception shot”
“Perception” here relates both to external perceptions as well as to internal perceptions of the figure. Famous examples
can be found in the films of Antonioni, Bergman, Godard or Tarkovsky. An extreme form of subjective camerawork occurs
when the perspective continuously occupies the gaze or point of view of the protagonist (a famous and repeatedly cited
example is The Lady in the Lake
, 1947). Such a sustained viewpoint has been used extremely rarely, as this type of
narration seems highly artificial and has not caught on with the audience. This also restricts the possibilities of